Do you work to live, or live to work? The idea of work-life balance has come to the foreground in human resources over the past few years as managers recognize the value of happy employees. While most employees would like to achieve the perfect balance between a successful career and a fulfilling personal life, they can't do so on their own. They need the help of a company that promotes individual happiness as well as a strong work ethic. Here are a few ways you can help your team find a great work-life balance:
1. Understand the problem
Despite many companies committing to improving this balance, people are still struggling in the office. The 24-hour work day has become more common than ever as employees check and respond to emails after hours and on the weekends. In a 2015 study by Ernst & Young, researchers found that workers in eight countries largely reported that maintaining a healthy work-life balance had become more challenging since 2009.
The study surveyed employees in eight countries including the U.S., the U.K, Germany, Japan and other major world economies. Almost half of survey participants in Germany said they struggled with finding harmony between the office and home, while 37 percent in the U.K. said the same. In the U.S., 24 percent of those polled said it was becoming steadily more difficult to coordinate their personal and professional lives.
Overall, 45 percent of those polled said they didn't have the time to engage with their own "personal activities." Meanwhile, 67 percent of human resources staff said their employees were able to find a positive balance. This disconnect may pose significant problems for businesses – overworking can lead to burnout, which often results in high turnover rates for businesses. Take an honest look at your company and examine how your staff works. Do they send emails after hours or stay late every day? If so, your staff is probably feeling the pressure to cut into their personal lives for their jobs.
2. Offer flexible work options
You can also consider allowing staff to work from home as needed.
Employees can find a better balance while still working hard and completing tasks as needed. One way managers can help employees in this regard is to offer flexible work options. For example, if your company usually operates from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., try opening the schedule a bit. Some employees may prefer beginning their days as early as 7 a.m. to beat the rush and to be able to pick their kids up from school after work, while others may opt to come in at 9:30 and stay later than their peers if they're not a morning person.
You can also consider allowing staff to work from home as needed. Depending on the kind of work they do, it may be feasible for employees to work away from the office a couple of times a week or just once a month. Companies may also offer more flexible hours around the holidays. Encourage employees to work from home the week of Thanksgiving or Christmas so they can beat the travel rush.
3. Promote vacation days
A 2017 study by Project Time Off found 54 percent of American workers ended 2016 with vacation days unused. The same study found that in 2016, Americans left 662 million paid time off days unused, ultimately giving up $66.4 billion in benefits in 2016. That translates to a $604 loss in pay per person.
This is bad news for employees, employers and the U.S. economy. The researchers found the American economy lost $236 billion in forfeited spending in 2016 due to unused PTO days. Their reasons are varied; some employees neglect to plan for vacations, while others feel discouraged from taking days off. In an attempt to show their supervisors that they're dedicated to the company they work for, employees contribute to their own burnout and loss of pay.
To combat this issue, encourage employees to use all of their vacation days. Do so in staff-wide emails throughout the year, and consider implementing a PTO policy that only allows a small number of days to roll over into the next year, prompting employees to use them or lose them.
4. Open the lines of communication
Effective communication is the cornerstone of any management strategy, and it is equally important when promoting work-life balance. In addition to communicating with team members that they should take days off, you should also implement a communication plan that spans company operations.
When staff members feel unsure of what their supervisor thinks of their performance, they may be less likely to take vacation days out of fear they will be seen as lazy or apathetic toward their positions. Try to hold performance reviews regularly – more than just annually – so everyone knows where they stand in the organization.
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You can also utilize objectives and key results software to keep the lines of communication open. Use OKR software to track goal setting and daily performance, as well as to congratulate individuals on a job well done. A good employee should feel at ease when at work, knowing that they're living up to expectations set by their managers. When they feel this assurance, they'll be more likely to take their vacation days, relax and mentally disengage at home.
5. Set an example
One of the most powerful ways to influence your employees and encourage them to seek out a better balance between home and the office is to make yourself an example. If you're trying to help your employees thrive and have fulfilling personal and professional lives, start by looking inward. The Ernst & Young report found 58 percent of U.S. managers work more than 40 hours per week. While your job may be demanding, employees notice your actions and may try to mirror your working style in an attempt to fulfill what they see as your expectations.
Try to set some limits on yourself and your work habits. Every time you consider sending an email at 10 p.m., think of the effect this will have on your staff. They may start to think this is what is expected of them and imitate your behavior. If you feel motivated to write an email that night, consider saving it in a draft and sending it first thing in the morning instead. The same goes for vacation days. Use all of your time off each year and refrain from answering correspondence while on PTO.
Achieving work-life balance is important for everyone on your team, including you. By implementing some of these management techniques, you may soon find yourself looking at a happier, healthier staff this year.